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Learnings from Organizations that are Addressing Trauma

Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)
February 14, 2018
Augmenting a larger 2016 Environmental Scan conducted by Health & Medicine's Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative, in 2018 we set out to offer a more in-depth snapshot of organizations working to address trauma. The resulting report--Learnings from Organizations that are Addressing Trauma--is based on an additional round of 27 interviews included five organizations that were part of the original scan and 22 that had not been previously interviewed. As with the 2016 scan, efforts were made to include organizations representing a wide variety of sectors; those that were at different points along the implementation journey; large and small organizations; those who provide direct service; and those that are facilitators of trauma training.

Interviewees were asked to describe their organization’s journey towards trauma awareness and share how their organization is currently incorporating this awareness. They were also asked to discuss promising approaches, ingredients for success, as well as challenges and barriers. Finally, they were asked to share advice for others who were either starting out or in the midst of introducing trauma awareness and trauma-informed approaches and services into their organizations. Despite the diversity of organizations interviewed relative to discipline, size, geography, and depth of implementation, many common themes emerged.

Here are some key findings:

Ingredients for Success at a Glance
While interviewees shared different approaches to trauma-informed organizational change, the following common themes emerged:
  • Recognize and remember that this type of culture change takes time; that you cannot expect everything at once; and that process slows things down, but is critically important.
  • Another critical ingredient for moving this work forward is finding champions and developing a core group of people to spearhead and maintain the process.
  • Buy-in from every level of the organization is critical to culture change and staff voice should inform the process.
  • Figure out how to persuasively sell the program. Know your audience. Ask yourself what they would respond to and tailor what you present.
  • Intentionally and strategically keep this work on the front burner. Having a smattering of trainings is not enough for this work to take root.
  • Be open to new ideas and learn from others - this work is a shift for everyone and requires an openness to learning.
Challenges at a Glance
Interviewees shared the following challenges and barriers in their journey towards trauma awareness:
  • Limited funding and tight resources are an ongoing challenge given the extraordinary need.
  • Many of the interviewees were leading trauma awareness work as part of another job and few had the resources to have a staff person or team whose sole focus is moving this forward.
  • Frequent staff turnover requires ongoing training on trauma-informed practices and also leads to added stress on supervisors and peers.
  • Time allocation and competing priorities were also seen as a barrier.
  • Not all staff will buy into the changes needed to shift a culture. This may lead to staff and leadership loss.
  • Interviewees recognized that evaluation was important but often lacked funding for evaluation and documentation activities.
  • Growing interest in the impact of trauma is both a challenge and an opportunity. Some organizations may call themselves “trauma-informed” without the depth and long-term commitment this actually requires.